Value-priced apparel chain Ross Stores Inc on Tuesday posted a slight rise in first quarter net profit as improved cost control and earlier-than-expected new store openings offset factors such as the weak economy.

The California-based operator of 530 stores said earnings for the quarter, ended May 3, rose three per cent to $49.3 million, or 63 cents per share, from $47.7m, or 59 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales climbed seven per cent to $879m from $820m last year although same-store sales slipped three per cent amid unseasonal weather.

CEO Michael Balmuth, said: "We are pleased to report that strong inventory and expense controls, as well as the earlier-than-planned opening of several new stores, offset the impact of lower-than-expected revenue on first quarter earnings.

"External issues, including unseasonable weather trends, the war in Iraq and the lacklustre economic climate, negatively affected business during the period. Despite these pressures, however, we were able to show respectable earnings per share growth."